The venerable AP style book, used by journalists for matters of grammar and style, has taken us all to task for using the word “mistress.”
“We now say not to use the archaic and sexist term ‘mistress’ for a woman in a long-term sexual relationship with, and financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion or lover on first reference. Provide details later.”
To which I tweeted: “Does fuck puppet have a hyphen?”
This reminds me of an episode of Playgroup Mommies from Hell in my early parenting life. It was the kind of consortium you fall into as a young parent when you only have uteruses in common. Anyway, there was one mother whose son Christopher was a holy terror. The sort of child who grinds blueberry muffins into your carpeting. Who conspires with other children, “Everybody, don’t talk to Emily! Emily stinks!” The sort of child who puts younger children in headlocks and smashes their faces into things. And no matter what Christopher did, his mother would never correct him. She would just blather on about the evils of vaccinations, while the rest of us did damage control.
One day, when I was hosting playgroup, Christopher shouted to another child, “I’ve got a GUN and I’m going to SHOOT you!”
And Christopher’s mother did something entirely out of character. She pulled Christopher aside. And in a hushed, gentle tone, she reminded him: “Christopher, we NEVER say ‘gun.’ Gun is a bad word.”
APStyle, ya got your priorities fucked up.
Mistress isn’t a bad word, it’s a useful word. It describes a condition that is sexist and archaic. Pick me dancing for men. Mate poaching. Being a dirty secret. Aspiring to be the sort of woman known as a “Do Nothing Bitch.” THAT is sexist and archaic. People who make such choices require language that reflects those choices.
The problem isn’t the word, the problem is the behavior.
Also, let’s not muddy perfectly nice words like “companion” and “lover” with infidelity.
Lovers and companions don’t conspire in the abuse of others.
Besides, “lover” gives people fits of giggles every since Rachel Dratch and Will Ferrell did a send-up on lov-ahs.
If we’re looking for a gender-neutral word to describe people who fuck around with married people, may I suggest:
(Provide details later. It is an isosceles or an equilateral triangle?)
CN, please make your mistress replacement suggestions in the comments.